Following recent EU-U.S. initiatives announced by president Joe Biden dealing with tech and transatlantic trade, the status of these two parties can be called into question. Are they friends, or are they foes? Moreover, which will prevail: domination, or ‘coopetition’? When it comes to technology in particular, it is not a zero-sum game, and both sides stand to lose to Xi's China unless a joint vision is adopted.
The U.S. that we know today is very different from the U.S. that attracted people from around the world as a new country full of vitality and promise. The words "liberty", "entrepreneurial freedom", and "equality" may sound familiar to us now, but they were what inspired Europeans especially to leave everything behind. Men and women crossed the ocean knowing they would be part of a new era - they realized that they had the power to change their own lives.
Two hundred and forty-five years later, the U.S. is not a new country anymore. Over the centuries, it has taken on the role of a superpower. Today’s digital era was built there, yet the very same values that were once sacred are now at risk. The indisputable technological leadership of the U.S. is now putting its historical partners in an intolerable position of subordination. The renewal of the concepts of “independence”, “strategic autonomy”, and “freedom” may now be coming from old Europe.
To gain its independence, the U.S. had a revolution. Post-war Europe, on the other hand, resorted to regulation.
Europe needs to answer pragmatically, while keeping in mind the ideals at stake here. Adding a new law to all those already in existence will only lead to confusion. We have to stay focused on a humanist vision of what progress is and always should be.
Technological progress cannot exist without social and political progress, and entrepreneurial freedom cannot exist without democracy. If fair trade is not protected, there will be no market at all. It is time to end the legal loopholes that new Information and Communication Technologies have benefited from until now.
By voting for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and the Digital Services Act (DSA), Europe sought to point out that it was time to renew privacy standards, readjust the rules of competition, and give power back to its citizens. The intention was never to descend into hostilities. U.S. lawmakers will surely be swift to follow suit.
Until now, American legislators never let the private sector endanger state prerogatives. The Tech Antitrust Reforms recently pushed by a bipartisan coalition prove that American Congress members still have the will to protect free competition, even if it took them time for the new technologies sector. Day by day, the growth of digital giants increases the challenge of writing legislation that addresses our underlying concerns about the power they hold. Those are heated debates, but the need for rules has become obvious. How else could it work? Antitrust regulation, and the abolition of all monopolies, are necessary to create an environment where competition is synonymous with fair-play, innovation, and wealth creation. No-one is more aware of this than American economic and legislative stakeholders. We Europeans share this point of view, and we are acting accordingly to regain the status of equal partners, and technological allies with the same ethical priorities.
The recent American-European summit and the joint EU-U.S. statement about a renewed transatlantic partnership put us - officially - on this path.
Undeniably, some rules have to be updated to address the multifaceted challenges ahead of us, ahead of humankind. More importantly however, we need to act together and promote shared ambitious objectives in this crucial time. At the same time, on both sides of the Atlantic, the defenders of state and technological sovereignty will be watching and making sure that future legislation is based on transparent and reliable information, guaranteeing digital free will to users and protecting the common good.
The creation of an EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council whose mission is to “remove trade barriers, set global standards, and promote joint innovation in key technologies" can be seen as an encouraging step.
This may be our last chance to build a balanced and fair digital society and market. We must act now, and we must act quickly. We still have the opportunity to choose the partners we want to work with. In this globalized world, where the next technological breakthroughs may give definitive competitive advantage and absolute ideological supremacy, there is no time for Americans and Europeans to quarrel, especially with China abiding only by its own rules. We need to remember that we are historic partners, united by a common past and shared humanist values, and to act accordingly in this paradigm-shifting world order.